Responsibility Rewarded: Electricity Conservation at Harvard Law


This year, Harvard Law School is making a definite pledge – to be energy efficient and conserve electricity. Recently, many Harvard Law dorm residents joined the effort, by pledging themselves to a variety of activities in order to reduce their overall electricity use. The pledge was a component of the first-ever Harvard Law Dorm Electricity Competition, and contained the following actions:

– Enable power management on my monitor.

– Turn off my computer and monitor when not using them for two hours or more.

– Put my computer and other electronic devices on a power strip, and turn them off at the strip.

– Turn off all the lights and appliances when I leave my dorm room.

– Change a frequently used light bulb to an energy efficient compact fluorescent one.

– Unplug my adapters and other chargers when not in use.

– Wash clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot.

– Use a clothing rack or hangers to air dry my laundry instead of using the dryer.

– Run the washing machine only with full loads.

– Take the stairs instead of the elevator as much as possible (North Hall).

– Tell my family, friends and colleagues about the benefits of energy efficiency.

The winning dorm was determined by the percentage of residents who signed the pledge along with the overall electricity reduction in the dorm, valued at 30% and 70% respectively. Congratulations to Story Hall for winning the competition and a Finale Dessert party! But, remember, just because the official competition is over doesn’t mean all efforts should be abandoned – the need to reduce the law school community’s electricity use remains strong. So keep on (or start!) turning off your appliances, using your computer’s power management features, and taking the other steps in the pledge.

In an age of global warming, rising fuel costs, and growing environmental concern, the importance of the pledge cannot be overemphasized. Former President Clinton recently declared that “global warming is the only problem that has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and render all the other efforts we are making irrelevant and impossible.” The problem of global warming should therefore unite us all, at the law school and in the larger community, because it affects us all, wherever we are, whoever we are. In the U.S., electricity and heat generation are responsible for one third of greenhouse gas emissions, the substance responsible for climate change and global warming.

Electricity is one form of energy that has practically become synonymous with everyday life, with its use often taken for granted, and its effects and exhaustibility forgotten. The norm, for students especially, is to leave lights, radios, TV’s, fans, air conditioners and other electrical gadgets turned on long after their momentary use has ceased, or long before being used at any particular time. The end result: huge costs to the University in defraying bills, not to mention the silent and unseen catastrophe perpetrated on the environment!

As part of its elaborate program of ‘greening’ Harvard Law School in all dimensions of community life, the HLS Graduate Green Living Program in collaboration with the Harvard Green Campus Initiative organized the electricity competition with the aim of encouraging students to be energy responsible and efficient. Signing the pledge and reducing electricity throughout the competition was a gigantic first step towards helping the program achieve its overall goals of sustainable campus life. The Green Living Program will continue its mission in the future by increasing awareness and influencing behaviors through a water reduction campaign and tips for a “green” move-out. Look for the reps soon outside the Hark for a chance to learn about water use and win a Brita Filter! For now, congratulations again to the winning dorm and thanks to everyone who signed the electricity pledge and followed through by reducing their electricity use. Remember that for each responsible step taken, you are part of a larger team of responsible people working to save the planet and reduce the energy costs to the University.

Harvard Law School has made its pledge, continue making yours today!

Ernest Abotsi and Jessica Bailey are working to make the campus a greener place.

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